Elvis Costello, whose disposition has fluctuated between surly and downright rotten since his emergence four years ago as England's leading practitioner of new wave rock, concluded a two-day engagement at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby last night, and there were hints along the way that Costello may be mellowing a bit.
OK, so it's still doubtful that Costello will be on anyone's nomination list for nice guy of the year award, but there were pockets of warmth in that deep freeze of a personality.
Maybe Costello is in a better frame of mind these days because of a sense of contentment over the way his music is progressing. Whatever, Costello's brand of rock 'n' roll is developing. With the songs written for his new album, Trust, it would seem that Costello has now taken full bloom among the best of today's rock songwriters.
The point is made cautiously because it was impossible to get into Costello's lyrics during his opening night show at the Tower. Between the booming volume of his band and Costello's usual disregard for enunciation, most of the words were simply part of the noise.
What counts for the moment's consideration, though, is that it was generally appealing noise by rock standards, despite the fact that Costello's voice is hardly among the best in rock circles.
Among the new songs Costello offered was "Clubland," which he dedicated to those in the audience who were on hand for Costello's first Philadelphia appearance at the old Hot Club. The song had an infectious feel — nicely structured and arranged.
Another of the new songs presented was "You'll Never Be a Man." This, too, had a substantial ring.
As a showman, Costello now is taking pains with his presentation. The concert opened with a spotlight suddenly hitting the performer on a darkened stage, with Costello singing a somber ballad (also from the new album). He was accompanied only by the group's pianist.
Then the remaining members of the band formed on stage and Costello jumped into a rumbling rendition of an older song, "Accidents Will Happen."
While Costello has made a practice of stalking off stage with a pout after only an hour of his music, he stretched the opening night concert to about an hour and 45 minutes, much to the delight of the capacity audience.
Costello was obviously in a good mood. Well, kind of.